01.09.2013 - 05.12.2013
Unlike many young visitors to India, I never had any intention to ‘find myself’ here or to waft about in a kaftan smoking dubious organic material. You are highly unlikely to find me cleansing my chakras or whatever in an ashram; that’s just not my bag. But even with my staunch atheism, it’s very difficult not to be affect by the spirituality that permeates every aspect of life here.
One of the things that has most struck me is the attitude towards death. Maybe it comes from having a faith, maybe it comes from being a developing country where mortality is very much present (having never witnessed anything more than your average roadkill, since being here I’ve seen 2 dead cows, countless dogs, three cremations and three actual human corpses, as well as two unpleasant encounters with electricity myself), but the taboo that surrounds death at home just isn’t present here. It’s just another part of life, and all that really counts for anything is the present moment. Nothing really sums that up better than the fact that the Hindi words for ‘tomorrow’ and ‘yesterday’ are the same.
A month or so ago I made a post about how many people hang around the streets doing nothing; it’s time for me to balance that out a bit. The people who I’ve met in the various projects I’ve been involved with have all had an incredible optimism for the future, which I think is actually rooted in this belief in the present. Because the fear of oblivion that stalks ‘the First World’ isn’t so present, there isn’t the mad scramble to leave one’s mark and claim glory, but rather the focus is on actually doing something that matters. I’ve been seriously impressed by the number of perfectly ordinary people who’ve decided to start a school or fight governmental corruption or take on an international corporation, and just got on with it. And believe it or not, it works! It really is inspiring to see both the power of the individual and the strength of the co\mmunity in action. That’s not to say that it’s plain sailing all the way, of course there are issues with knowing how to play the system (and a corrupt one at that), but nevertheless, the increasingly pessimistic ‘West’ could do with taking a few leaves from the Indian book of optimism.